For over 10 years I’ve tried every decent Mac application or file launcher under the sun. The best is James Thomson’s DragThing. It’s not even a contest as no other launcher comes close to the features, capability, usefulness, and ease-of-use found in DragThing. If the Mac’s Dock is making you wince, DragThing will make you smile.
The Mac Dock
Love it or hate it, the Mac’s Dock is relatively easy to use, and, in Snow Leopard, gets much needed flexibility and power.
To add a new application or folder, just grab it from the Finder and move it onto the Dock. The Dock expands to make room for the new item, and if you have a lot of items, the icons automatically scale to fit on your desktop.
Without a lot of bells and whistles or new eye candy, Apple will push the Snow Leopard refinements. The Dock is improved but has limits. First, it scales, but only so far. If you’re loaded with apps, utilities, documents and files, the Dock’s shortcomings become apparent.
You need a better, faster, easier, more customizable way to launch files.
The Mac and Windows PCs are loaded with file, or application launchers.
The Mac’s Dock holds icons for each app, utility, or document. Click and it launches. It’s handy. And limited. The more files you add, the smaller it all gets, the more difficult it is to navigate, and customization options are limited, and cumbersome.
The Learning Curve
Any utility that you’ll use every day should have a gentle learning curve. The Dock, regardless of faults and limitations, has a decidedly low learning curve. It’s easy. Drag an icon and drop it on the Dock.
Move the mouse pointer to the icon and click. Click and hold to move around. It’s easy. After that, it’s more complicated. For example, Stacks:
A stack is a Dock item that gives you fast, direct access to folders and files. When you click a stack, the files within spring from the Dock in a fan or a grid, depending on the number of items (or the preference you set).
I like Stacks, especially the implementation in Show Leopard, which adds new features to find files that may be buried in your Mac.
Mac OS X starts you off with premade stacks for downloads, applications, and documents. The Downloads stack automatically captures files you download from Safari, Mail, and iChat. The Applications stack gives you fast access to all your applications. And the Documents stack is a great place to keep things like presentations, spreadsheets, and word processing files.
The limitations become more apparent as your needs grow. Finding files takes clicks, click and hold, scrolling. DragThing uses a different approach, yet starts with a gentle learning curve.
The dock metaphor is appropriate. The Mac’s Dock is anchored. DragThing’s docks can be anchored or float or both. The Mac’s Dock expands but has a physical limit. DragThing can expand and multiply; more tabs, more docks.
The Mac’s Dock stores applications and utilities, as well as folders and files. DragThing stores almost anything. A floating dock displays open apps. Another displays attached disks or network connections. The main file dock holds everything.
It stores frequently-used clippings such as text and pictures, and lets you easily paste them into other applications with just a click.
Not only does DragThing’s customizable dock hold icons of apps and utilities, it also hold one-click access to documents, folders, volumes, or any file, anywhere on your Mac.
Again, that’s a single click to open anything, or navigate anywhere on your Mac, and you configure the whole thing simply by dragging and dropping onto DragThing what you want.
Customization & Configuration
If you’re new to Mac but find the Dock a bit restrictive, and you want to geek it out for awhile, try DragThing. While the basic docks are a breeze to set up to use, ready to go in minutes, custom features are broad and deep.
The latest version is Snow Leopard ready, comes with plenty of customizable dock themes which can be modified for size, color, and capability. A new option highlights 32-bit applications when running on Snow Leopard.
Little things are built in. For example, on the Twitterific and Mail icons, DragThing, like the Dock, will show you how many tweets or messages are unread.
I set up DragThing with a rather large floating dock, but it’s completely out of the way until I move my Mac mouse to a hot corner or hot side, then it jumps to the front of the screen.
My dock contains every important applications, utility, or folder. Click and hold brings up a navigation menu, so I’m now a click away from any file on the Mac. It’s that easy.
Hardcore Mac keyboard users may love Quicksilver because it’s extensible, and has features only a geek would love. Quicksilver, while powerful, is not for the faint of heart, and is no longer under active development. DragThing is updated regularly from one of the Mac’s premier developers.
If your Mac is ready for Snow Leopard and you want more control, DragThing brings it on. Highly recommended.